Five Sales Ideas That Need to Die

A week ago, Andrew Rudin at Customer Think posted a thought-provoking article titled Seven Sales Topics That Need to Die. And Seven That Need to Be Heard. He was riffing on Amber Naslund’s 9 Social Media Topics That Need to Die. Maybe my piling on turns this into a meme, but I can’t resist the device; some sales ideas need to die.

Five Ideas That Need to Die

1. Cold Calling Is Dead

Despite there being a whole cottage industry dedicated to the idea that cold calling is dead, cold calling is still exceedingly effective for appointment setting. It is difficult to be good at and even harder to train—like many of the activities that allow one to succeed in sales.

“Cold calling is dead” is dead. Long live cold calling.

2. Sales 2.0 is the Answer to Not Excelling at Sales 1.0

There is no doubt that I am probably more technology-oriented than most people you will meet. I leverage technology, and I am a big fan of a whole bunch of Sales 2.0 companies and ideas (like Jigsaw and Glance Networks). I have personally made deals over Twitter and won clients through LinkedIn.

But Sales 2.0 isn’t a replacement Sales 1.0. Sales 2.0 are tools and techniques you ADD to the skills and attributes that have always been required in order to succeed in sales.

3. Sales Behaviors Are Negative

The pendulum has swung too far in this direction. There was a time when salespeople behaved too aggressively and often without their prospects best interests in mind. This is now extremely rare; it is the exception to the rule.

Now asking questions that may be effective because they make the customer address their own issues with the salesperson, or any language that might hint at the fact that you are asking them for a commitment, is anathema.

The language choices we make and our ability to ask for and obtain commitments is still essential to sales. They are only negative if you behave in a way that makes them so.

4. Salespeople Are Born, Not Made

There may have been a time when salespeople were born, when rapport-building, a great smile, and fearlessness was enough to succeed. But sales has evolved so much in the last 30 years that it is difficult to succeed without having a solid foundation built upon other attributes that can be trained and developed, like business acumen.

Sales organizations are built on great hiring (a future blog post) and on great development. More than ever, someone with the strong foundational skills needed to succeed (and they are rare in combination), can surely learn to sell. But, of course, they must be something more than simply willing to learn; it takes a certain passion for the game.

5. Sales Process Trumps Everything Else

Process is important. Critical even. But it doesn’t trump everything else, and following it to the letter doesn’t ensure the success of the salesperson or the sales organization.

Not following your sales process may be part of your problem. Following your process may also be part of your problem. And it is more likely that your sales problems have very little to do with your process. They are probably more fundamental and harder to fix.

Five Ideas That Need to Be Heard

1. Prospecting Requires a Plan to Nurture Target Accounts

Prospecting isn’t a one-time event with your dream client. The best and most meaningful relationships are developed over time. The idea of prospecting needs to be built on a strong foundation of nurturing relationships over a long period of time, creating value for the dream client long before claiming any.

The activity metrics and results here need to be developed and worked on. Activity and scheduled appointments are not enough to indicate progress, and because this is so, nurturing takes a back seat.

2. Salespeople Own the Outcomes They Sell

Salespeople are business managers. There are those who don’t like this idea. But when you sell results and outcomes, you own them. And when they are off track, the first call is not to the team responsible for delivering, it is to the salesperson that built and sold the solution.

That said, how much training do salespeople receive on project management, managing cross-functional teams, and change leadership? This ain’t on the sales process roadmap either, is it?

3. Salesperson: Your Development is Your Responsibility

You want training and development. Then go get it! There isn’t enough time or money in the world to provide you with the training and development that you need to succeed.

Your professional development is your responsibility. If you don’t have a written plan for the areas that you are working on developing for the next year, and for the next five years, prepare to fall behind and prepare to struggle.

4. Sales Organization: Their Development is Your Responsibility

Teaching the sales process isn’t where your responsibility as a sales organization ends. If you want an effective sales organization hire for the right attributes and continually develop the skills your sales team needs to win.

This is every bit as important as your sales process. It might be more. Your weekly sales call to take their reports isn’t development and it isn’t coaching. And it isn’t working.

5. Process is Enabled by Adaptability

I am all for a defined process. I am also for a process that isn’t ever written down on the sales process roadmap. That process is called: Thinking.

Great salespeople and great sales organizations think about what they need to do to move a deal forward and to create value for their clients. In an economy as dynamic (and challenging) as ours has been over the last decade, this requires a resourcefulness and an adaptability that isn’t mapped out on a sales process roadmap.

Resourcefulness, creativity, and initiative all need to be encouraged by a sales culture that reinforces that the sales process is a roadmap with many possible ways to reach the desired outcome, not a set of train tracks that forbid deviations.

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